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What Michael Phelps Needed

Now we know. Michael Phelps has made believers out of us. His hope of breaking Mark Spitz’s 1972 Olympic record of seven gold medals was not just hype.

But as impressed as I am by his dominance of Olympic waters, and his endurance of swimming 17 races in 9 days, what Michael repeatedly acknowledged in media interviews is so true. He could not have won eight gold medals by himself. He needed the help of so many others.

Before his historic and final race, an article in the New York Times said, “Michael Phelps’s attempt to win eight gold medals will not be totally under his control at the Beijing Games…As everyone knows by now, Phelps’s shot at eight golds would have ended Monday morning if Jason Lezak had not completed an astonishing anchor leg in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.”

His quest also would have ended in a loss to Milorad Cavic, of Serbia, in his seventh win, if it had not been for technology. The human eye could not, in real time, see what the electronic touch pads confirmed in 1/100th of a second. Nor could the subsequent Serbian protest have been resolved without the additional video and timing reviews that allowed Olympic judges to confirm his win by watching the finish in frames and increments of 10/1000ths of a second.

The way Phelps achieved his amazing Olympic accomplishment, with the help of so many others– so many and so “invisible” that they could never be counted– reminds me of the “interdependence” that the Apostle Paul often wrote about in his letters to first century churches. For instance, in his letter to the Corinthians he talked about the fact that God has gifted us all differently, and made us all dependent upon one another. Likening individuals to the members of a human body he wrote, “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you'” (12:21).

Paul wrote this after saying, “Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?

Suppose the whole body were an eye– then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it” (12:14-18).

This principle of interdependence is not a favorite insight in our modern world of democratic independence. But it is foundational to our faith. Even when we don’t think we need one another, we do– in ways far beyond our own ability to realize.

I have no idea what is happening in my life today (both physically and spiritually) because of the prayers and contributions of countless people I have never even met.

Most importantly, I could never even take the next breath without the patient provision and immeasurable mercy of God.

Michael Phelps isn’t the only one whose achievements are made possible by the work and services of a support team that is so great and so complex, that God alone deserves the credit for making it all possible.

If we are allowed to think or to do anything today that is noteworthy because it honors God or is helpful to others, who can tell what part was played by those now unseen persons who have taken time and thought to encourage, to teach, or to pray for us…

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24 Responses to “What Michael Phelps Needed”

  1. poohpity says:

    This is so important the roles we play in each others life. I do not think we comprehend the responsibility to care for one another. Each one of us as followers of Christ can either build up or TEAR DOWN. I emphasized tearing down because I believe that is what a majority of those who are not believers see in us. Oh that we could be that healing balm given to those who need someone to love them and show how much Christ cares.

  2. desert rose says:

    Behind every great person, there are those who have had a part in their lives in the development process. I think that is why we need to pray for those officials etc. not only in our higher government but locally as well.

    When God tells us to pray continuously, I know we are to have an attitude of prayer at all times. Even when we pass someone in a car or on the road, at the check out line etc.

    I know if your whole body cannot work together, you have a problem. I have one because I have a chronic illness and I can’t get all my members to work together.

    As always, this is a good post.

  3. paul bishop says:

    We all should rather die than be conformed to this
    world. We die, yet we live. Remember the enemies
    of our soul: the world, the flesh and the devil!
    All hail King Jesus. It is He who has won the VICTORY!

    I am so thankful for this opportunity to share the
    TRUTH with y’all.

  4. Aries says:

    We will never know why we could survive from our struggle in our life. I believe God make us pray or impact each other as a “team” even if we doesn’t realize it.

    I’m so blessed with this post. So you did an impact in my life too. God bless you :D

  5. Valkiria says:

    I don’t know much about Michael Phelps, but one thing about him that called my attention was the way he’s so caring with others and esp. with his mother.
    Sometimes I’m afraid of people. I’m afraid to even leave my house. I enjoy my solitude, when my husband goes to travel. God has been talking to me about it, I know I’m wrong and I hope to overcome this and become an instrument in God’s hands. Please, pray for us (me and husband, as he feels the same way about people!)

  6. daisymarygoldr says:

    “…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.(Eph 4:15-16)

    “I have no idea what is happening…”
    Of course we will have no idea because it is God who is using finite, fallible human beings for building the beautiful Body of Christ in which each one of us are connected in ways that is beyond our understanding …and that also includes the “invisible” things like blood vessels, nerve endings, muscles that efficiently circulate to help us receive nourishment and strength from the Head.

    Only when we learn to Love God we will know how to love men, only in learning to be dependent on Him we will know how to be interdependent on each other. Each member is important and so none of us is insignificant and hence we cannot remain ineffective in our individual functions. There is no room for independence or individuality in a team rather a desperate interdependence that enables us to be knitted or fitted together to grow into the full measure and stature of Christ. “For we are laborers together with God” (I Cor 3:9).

  7. rokdude5 says:

    No doubt a number of us are praying for Valkiria to muster the courage walk off the “boat” and walk on the water of faith to overcome her fear of people. This illustrate how one part of the body of Christ affects the rest of body. We want Valkiria to be our champion evangelist!! And even when she wins just one person for Christ, the angels in heaven will be rejoicing!

  8. poohpity says:

    I was just wondering how the sermon went for BruceC.

    You have my prayers and you also have a great intercessor in heaven for you both. Keep us informed how your doing and you can talk to us.

  9. Ted M. Gossard says:

    Amen, Mart. So wonderfully worded! We sink or swim not on our own, in a true sense, when you look at the call we have in Jesus towards each other in the New Testament letters. This helps me see afresh the importance of community for each of us. How we need to be both on the receiving and giving end of all of this.

    And it helps bring hope to me as well. I feel really bad and it makes me wonder when a professing Christian just quits going to church altogether, and seems to be cut off from help they need, as well as help they can give, in Christ’s body.

    Hebrews warns us against drifitng away from God’s word in Christ, and that homily speaks of those who forsake the assembling of themselves with other believers, as well as the need to see that no one falls short of fails of God’s grace. A quesion here which casts this whole issue in more of life and death terms, at least for me.

    And it was fun to see what I saw of Michael Phelps and company in the help he received!

  10. hal.fshr says:


    Thanks for the insightful and lively illustration followed by a great connection with the biblical prinicple of interdependence. Great thoughts upon which to reflect this day.

  11. kaliko88 says:

    This entry today brought vividly to my mind something my sister-in-law said. It was at the funeral a few months ago for her nine month-old daughter. All of us in my family are thinking about it quite a bit because this Thursday would have been her first birthday. With the condition she was born with, we knew her time would be short, though we hoped and prayed for more. But nine months was also a miracle, and she and my brother and their children bore it with grace.

    She reminded us of that interconnectedness when she gave the final homily. The care of my niece was largely their burden and joy, but that we were not to feel as if we didn’t do anything, or spend enough time with them. We all did our part to help. Some, like my mother, gave up their jobs for a time to come help. Some prayed. Some called or visited, sent cards or notes with words of encouragement. Some took pictures. Some came and played with the children. Some did laundry or the dishes. Some just listened when she said “I hurt.”

    Now that interconnectedness is helping us heal. And it’s not just family, but friends, coworkers, people who leave comments on our blogs, and church family.

    It’s mostly words, but words matter. Valkiria, that’s where you can reach out even when you are afraid. Words can travel when you cannot. And it is usually the first step in connecting, anyway. Never give up.

  12. BruceC says:


    The sermon went very well because He was in it. I was not nervous at all as I thought I would be-love drives out fear and you coul feel His love there.

    This a great topic and I see it happening at our church more and more. Since our pastor went home with Jesus, brothers and sisters have stepped up, filled in for sermons, done special music, and our deacons have really shined! God did not intend for us to despair, but to keep pressing on and continue the work. The “body” is functioning because all the “parts” are working. The Lord be praised! Yesterday at church I got to see this very topic in action!

  13. ayebo says:

    Great insightful lessons from Michael Phelp’s Olympic Win. Indeed, teamwork is very important for us to achieve success in every area of life. Thanks for the article.

  14. Valkiria says:

    Thanks to you all praying for us! I thank God for this community, it’s impotant to me to interact with other people, and to be able to share with fellow Christians. I know God has a purpose for my life, and that I matter in His Kingdom, and I want to be helpful to others as well!
    You may call me “Val”! It’s easier! :)

  15. poohpity says:

    I got to see this very topic happen in this blog too!

  16. ACLSR says:

    When iI saw the topic, I thought that what the body would be that what he needed was JESUS THE CHRIST!!
    It is wonderful in some respects to see all of the hype surrounding Mike Phelps and his accomplishments, but no matter what he accredited his success to he never acknowledged THE LORD JESUS as the cornerstone of his success. Being good and popular and giddy does not set it right in the Kingdom of Our GOD. HE is the Author and Finisher of our faith, whether recognized or not. That is the defining acknowledging of help, not all of the people. What about the less fortunate people that never get to even swim in a pool? What of the ones, even in the country that he broke the records, that are oppressed and dislocated and disenfranchised? We are to promote JESUS THE CHRIST IN SEASON AND OUT OF SEASON!!! We are so smug and comfortable that we forget even the impoverished in our own country in a fit of olympic frenzy.
    We are not to mimic the world and promote what they do, for the tenets of the church are: saving souls and helping the less fortunate and widows orphans and disabled. Just one mention of JESUS, but nothing.
    Let us be promoters of Truth, which is not always popular, but Truth as JESUS is.

  17. daisymarygoldr says:

    Enjoying the magic your words are weaving on this page… I can actually see you in a tall pointy hat and a wand…Thx, Mart the M…and you are also accountable for me catching the “Phelps fever”…he is phenomenal!

    It is a blessing to read what kaliko88 and BruceC have shared here…this is what Church means…its “us”, not “they”. For ex. it does not do me any good to merely sit and complain about why “they” are not doing the dirty dishes at home…if it is bothering me, then I’d better to do them myself…in fact no one does them if I don’t…

    Also, Church is “me” not “him” i.e. the Pastor…I can understand Val… and we all do love and wish the “big guy” to visit our homes to pray for us or simply share a meal with our families…but we need to keep in mind that pastors are also people like us with their own families to take care of…to take their wives out for shopping or dining, help their kids with their homework or games…and most importantly, to pray and prepare a good sermon to avoid being stoned (have seen 2 of them being subjected to this ungrateful treatment at my previous church), though I felt both of them were absolutely great… because I know what it means to not have a spiritual overseer who faithfully feeds the flock!

    None of us work 24/7 and its not fair to expect this of our Pastor…its humanly and practically impossible. God alone transcends beyond 24/7 and is always very near to hear our cries and help us in our every trouble…

    Val, in addition to the great advice that you got from others, I would encourage you to find a little group (Sunday school, Bible study or a cell or any fellowship) so you may plug-in to serve and be served!

  18. poohpity says:

    I am so confused, what just happened here? :(

  19. Trying To Trust God says:

    I have another question on this topic. Why did God create him to be such a great swimmer and give him success and talents and skill and victory and yet deny many others their desires?

    I hear pastor’s speak of “brokenness” and that we need to do God’s will, well here’s a man who God created and is doing his own will which mirrors God’s.

    God has crowned him with fame, success, skill, gifts, talents, and soon to be wealth and this man is living his dreams.

    Please don’t bring the potter/clay argument into this.

    How can God so lavishly bless one person while making the life of a believer a living hell? How can I look at God’s love and favor for this man or someone like King David and not feel He is not loving me as much?

    I do NOT think God personally loves me and I am NO happy with what he has done in my life. Sexual abuse at age 11, broken home, loss of a brother, handicapped child, loss of job and home. God’s will for me is an oppressive weight and I am AFRAID of His next move. I do NOT like God’s plans He made for me. He seems to have created me for a life of extreme pain, sorrow, and loss.

    Hooray Michael Phelps honored by God and we KNOW God gave him all of this.

  20. forteag says:

    When God took Ezekiel to the Valley of Dry Bones and asked him the question can these dry bones live, I believe what Ezekiel saw was hopelessness.

    That is the picture that we will see if we are not held together by muscles and sinews both naturally and spiritually. On their own the bones were just a mass of decay but when they came together and God breathed into the bodies they became a mighty army.

    On our own we are no match for the enemy but together and with Christ on our side we are more than conquerers.

    The Church was designed to be a unit with each member or part combining to form one whole.


  21. Mart De Haan says:

    We got another question on this subject that I think is too important to bury at the end of this string. One of our friends indicates a real struggle of faith as a result of not being able to relate to a Michael Phelps who has been given so much. Am going to make the question the basis for our next couple of posts.

  22. Valkiria says:

    daisymarygoldr, I understand your point, and I believe that’s what I have to do. The church I belong to, is a big church, with many pastors and helpers. They’re paid to “pastor” the sheep, aren’t they? We invited the pastor to come to our home as a guest, to share a cup of coffee and to get to know us better, as I think they should do to every new member, and yet, for 2 times he told us to make an appointment with his secretary! It hurts, and it added to our fear of people. I hope in God I can overcome that and help my husband to do so too!
    I just want to add that we, as christians, need to be compassionate, because many people are hurt and they need our love.

  23. daisymarygoldr says:

    Val, you are absolutely right that “we, as Christians, need to be compassionate, because many people are hurt and they need our love”. Now that you have experienced the hurt of being turned down twice please do not be offended as the Pastor may not have been intentional about it…instead open your heart and home to some one who has never been invited to a home before…share and pray with them for their needs…I’m sure it will be a blessing that will be enjoyed both ways!

    The free love of Jesus is what we receive and freely give…sincerely hope and pray that you’ll find a small group within your big church so you can be family to them and not miss yours back home…been there and doing just that!

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